Toddy tappers demands

Toddy tappers from Mangaluru began a strike seeking fulfilment of their demands. There were technical issues in issuing license to them to tap toddy. They wanted license to be given free of cost. They requested me to talk to Chief Minister Veerendra Patil. I spoke to him and he readily agreed to fulfill the demands. But Rajashekhar Murthy, who was Finance Minister in Patil's Government, was not in favour of toddy tappers demands.

I met Patil again in Bengaluru. He promised to fulfill the demand but did not do anything. When Patil had come to Delhi, I reminded him about the protest of toddy tappers. "They are all very poor and their demands are also fair. It is our duty to respond to them," I told Patil. Former Chief Minister Gundu Rao who was MP then, had also given a statement supporting toddy tappers. In the meantime, Patil convened a meeting of all MPs from Karnataka in Delhi. I submitted a memorandum signed by all the MPs seeking fulfillment of toddy tappers demands. "Mr Chief Minister, we have not responded to the demands of the toddy tappers despite repeated request from us. Now I am giving a letter signed by all the MPs. Please consider it," I said. Patil got angry and said: "What Poojary, do you think it is that easy? Their demands can't be fulfilled." I had never seen him raising his voice before. "'What did you say? Can't you hear the screams of the poor? Have you not promised us before? What is stopping you now from fulfilling your promise? You think toddy tappers have nobody to support them? I am born in that Community. I will not come to you until I dethrone you from the CM's post?", I said.

I went straight to Rajiv Gandhi's house and explained what transpired between me and Patil. "Don't worry Poojary ji. I am there," he said. Patil who came to Central Hall in Parliament, sent his people to pacify me. They wanted to arrange a meeting between me and Patil. "I will not see his face till he fulfills the demands of the toddy tappers," I told them.

After some time, he suffered a paralytic stroke. He collapsed while attending official work. He was admitted to hospital. Rajiv Gandhi came to Bengaluru to enquire about Patil's health. "Patil ji, I will send you to America for treatment. Before that you submit your resignation," Rajiv Gandhi told Patil.

From Bengaluru, Rajiv went to Chennai. Then Ramamurthy was Tamil Nadu Congress Committee President. By then, all news papers had carried news about Patil's ill health. "Who will be the next CM of Karnataka,"' Ramamurthy asked Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi showed him a chit where he had written Janardhan Poojary. Ramamurthy told me this a few days later.

Again I got a call from Delhi to become CM of Karnataka. But, S. Bangarappa was camping in Delhi and he had convinced many Delhi leaders in his favour. Hectic lobbying was held in favour of Bangarappa. Since I was not interested, I was least bothered about what was going on. Finally, the High Command succumbed to Bangarappa's lobby and made him Chief Minister.

After few days, I met Bangarappa at Mangaluru airport. I reminded him how Patil had to lose his post for not fulfilling the demands of the toddy tappers. "I will have to revolt against you also if you don't consider their demands. Keep it in mind," I told him. Bangarappa fulfilled all the demands, the very next day.

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